New England, despite being a walking MASH unit with injuries to Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski, are 5-1 and leading the AFC East by a game and a half over the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots are riding high after coming from behind in epic fashion to defeat the New Orleans Saints 30-27 at Gillette Stadium this past Sunday, winning in the final 10 seconds.
The Jets had a decidedly different weekend. New York came in with a 3-2 record and hosted a winless Pittsburgh Steelers team, but found a way to lose against Ben Roethlisberger and co. Geno Smith had a tough day, getting picked off twice.
Meet the Patriots
No team seems to do more with less every season. Sure, Tom Brady might be the best quarterback of all-time, but outside of him this team does not have one Pro Bowler on offense at any skill position this year. The Patriots have been running out all sorts of young kids who have struggled so far at the receiver position, from Aaron Dobson to Kenbrell Thompkins, but New England has made it work.
Part of the Patriots success goes back to an underrated defense that has also fought through the Wilfork injury. New England is only 14th in yards-per-game allowed, but is tough against the pass, giving up only 228.8 yards. It is also a unit that has been opportunistic, earning 12 takeaways.
Should New England win again over the Jets, it will have a three-game lead over Gang Green with the tiebreaker in hand. As usual, the division runs through the Patriots, a division won by New England every season except one since 2003.
Meet the Jets
New York is one of the more surprising teams in the NFL. At 3-3, the Jets are hanging in the playoff race, only a half-game out of the sixth and final seed for the AFC postseason. Head coach Rex Ryan was one of the coaches whose seat was hottest coming into the campaign, but has quieted the doubters for now.
Smith has been playing pretty well for a rookie, taking over the job for an injured Mark Sanchez. Smith has thrown for 1,490 yards, more than Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Brady. However, Smith has also made the typical mistakes of a youngster, tossing 10 interceptions and taking 21 sacks.
As usual, it's the defense which has come up big for Ryan and New York. The unit ranks fourth in the league and holds teams to 75.7 rushing yards per game, only coming in behind the Denver Broncos. Muhammad Wilkerson has been the best player on the team, racking up five sacks.
Local take: New England
Pat Pulpit's Alec Shane writes about his immense, overwhelming pride of all things Brady from Sunday:
To say that I saw that game live helps to ease the pain of saying that I was also in the stands at Super Bowl XLII. To say that I was one of the fans who actually stayed for the whole game makes me proud to be a part of that group of Patriots fans who have always been there, and will always be there, for this team no matter what the outcome. And to say that I was around in the time of Tom Brady is something I will never take for granted.
So bring on the Jets. Hell, bring on the entire NFL, for all I care. Because we have Tom Brady.
Local take: New York
He gave up another long touchdown on Sunday, as well as another penalty for pass interference and he has now given up three touchdowns on the season.
However it's not just the long bombs he is getting beat on, he is getting beat off the line on slant plays. He is getting beat on simple out routes, he isn't tackling clean. His one redeeming quality is the pace he has shown to track ball carriers from behind, usually after surrendering a completion.
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Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Tom Brady and the Comeback http://t.co/swV5rFR8Xm— Greg Knopping (@patspulpit) October 15, 2013
Julian Edelman - Public Enemy No. 1 http://t.co/Z7Yw3zIzqu— Gang Green Nation (@GangGreenNation) October 16, 2013
The Patriots are now with Mayo and Wilfork on defense, making them very vulnerable to runs up the gut. However, the Jets are not a team with a great running back to take full advantage of this. At some point, Smith is going to have to throw the ball against New England, something that went bad at Foxboro Week 2, when he threw three interceptions. New York always keeps it close with the Patriots, but that is all it will do against them.
Pick: New England 23, New York 13
The Patriots are favored by four points on the road, according to Oddsshark.com.
New England hosts Miami while the Jets are in Cincinnati taking on the Bengals.